Every commission is a unique journey, and the process of composing Sing to Me! was no exception. When Kirk Marcy—Director of Choral Activities at Edmonds Community College—commissioned me to compose a piece for their Symphonic Choir, he indicated it would commemorate the 10th Anniversary of the college’s Committee on Arts, Culture, and Civic Engagement. Accordingly, the work was to be Celebratory, Inclusive, Upbeat, and Engaging. Our initial meeting was in June 2012. Then everything changed. A month later, Kirk’s wife, Laurie Cappello, also a choir director, was diagnosed with stage-4 ovarian cancer. When Kirk and I met again in mid-December that same year, Laurie had completed about two-thirds of her treatment. I remember Kirk saying to me, “I’m not sure exactly how, but I know the experience that Laurie and I have gone through is going to influence this piece somehow.”
When I asked Kirk for some descriptive phrases that could guide me as I looked for a text, he said: “Sing for Life,” “Living for Today and for the present,” “Thankfulness for one more day with my wife,” “A cause to celebrate the successes of the journey,” “Transformative,” “Beauty out of strife,” and most profoundly, “The darkest moments can reveal some of the brightest lights.” While searching the Internet for texts about “hope,” I found the perfect poem: Sing to Me! by Ella Wheeler Wilcox. The resulting musical setting captures both the celebration of ACCE’s 10-year history as well as Kirk’s and Laurie’s transformative journey.